Nehemiah 6:9
For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.—The answer sent was that the thing was not true, and that the report itself did not exist. The reflection in Nehemiah’s journal was that they sought to make him afraid. Quoting this, he adds the prayer that he recorded when he wrote it. It is one of those sudden, interjectional petitions which abound in the narrative, and is all the more remarkable from the absence of the words “O God,” which are here inserted.

Nehemiah 6:9. For they all made us afraid — That is, they endeavoured to do so, and actually did terrify some persons. Now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands — It is a great relief to good people, that in all their straits and difficulties they can have recourse to God, and by faith and prayer derive from him grace to silence their fears and strengthen their hands, while their enemies are endeavouring to fill them with fears and to weaken their hands. And this prayer of Nehemiah is particularly suitable when we are entering on any particular services or conflicts in our Christian warfare, and especially need to have our hands strengthened.6:1-9 Let those who are tempted to idle merry meetings by vain companions, thus answer the temptation, We have work to do, and must not neglect it. We must never suffer ourselves to be overcome, by repeated urgency, to do anything sinful or imprudent; but when attacked with the same temptation, must resist it with the same reason and resolution. It is common for that which is desired only by the malicious, to be falsely represented by them as desired by the many. But Nehemiah knew at what they aimed, he not only denied that such things were true, but that they were reported; he was better known than to be thus suspected. We must never omit any known duty for fear it should be misconstrued; but, while we keep a good conscience, let us trust God with our good name. God's people, though loaded with reproach, are not really fallen so low in reputation as some would have them thought to be. Nehemiah lifted up his heart to Heaven in a short prayer. When, in our Christian work and warfare, we enter upon any service or conflict, this is a good prayer, I have such a duty to do, such a temptation to grapple with; now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. Every temptation to draw us from duty, should quicken us the more to duty.The letter was "open," in order that the contents might be generally known, and that the Jews, alarmed at the threats contained in it, might refuse to continue the work. 5-9. Then sent Sanballat his servant … the fifth time with an open letter in his hand—In Western Asia, letters, after being rolled up like a map, are flattened to the breadth of an inch; and instead of being sealed, they are pasted at the ends. In Eastern Asia, the Persians make up their letters in the form of a roll about six inches long, and a bit of paper is fastened round it with gum, and sealed with an impression of ink, which resembles our printers' ink, but it is not so thick. Letters were, and are still, sent to persons of distinction in a bag or purse, and even to equals they are enclosed—the tie being made with a colored ribbon. But to inferiors, or persons who are to be treated contemptuously, the letters were sent open—that is, not enclosed in a bag. Nehemiah, accustomed to the punctillious ceremonial of the Persian court, would at once notice the want of the usual formality and know that it was from designed disrespect. The strain of the letter was equally insolent. It was to this effect: The fortifications with which he was so busy were intended to strengthen his position in the view of a meditated revolt: he had engaged prophets to incite the people to enter into his design and support his claim to be their native king; and, to stop the circulation of such reports, which would soon reach the court, he was earnestly besought to come to the wished-for conference. Nehemiah, strong in the consciousness of his own integrity, and penetrating the purpose of this shallow artifice, replied that there were no rumors of the kind described, that the idea of a revolt and the stimulating addresses of hired demagogues were stories of the writer's own invention, and that he declined now, as formerly, to leave his work. They all made us afraid, i.e. they endeavoured to do so, and actually did terrify some persons. For they all made us afraid,.... Or you all, as Aben Ezra interprets it; or all the Heathen nations, as Jarchi; this was the design of all those scandalous reports, to intimidate them, and with this they pleased themselves, as follows:

their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done; this they hoped would be the effect of those reports sent to them:

now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands; and let them not have what they will, and hope for; according to Aben Ezra, these words are directed to Sanballat, that if he was a friend, as he pretended, that instead of weakening, he would strengthen his hands by a sincere reconciliation; so Vatablus; but they are an address to God, such short ejaculations being usual with Nehemiah.

For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. For they all made us afraid] R.V. For they all would have made us afraid. The participle in the original does not convey more than that the attempt was made. It does not assert, as the A.V. rendering, that the attempt succeeded. By ‘they all’ Nehemiah refers to the enemies mentioned in Nehemiah 6:1. The present verse is his comment upon the whole episode.

saying] i.e. amongst themselves and in their own minds.

Their hands shall be weakened] For this expression cf. Job 4:3; Isaiah 35:3; Jeremiah 38:4; 2 Chronicles 15:7. Cf. ‘fearful hearts and faint hands’ (Sir 2:12); ‘hands that hang down’ (Hebrews 12:12).

Now therefore, O God, strengthen, &c.] R.V. But now, O God, strengthen. Marg. ‘Or, I will strengthen my hands’. The adversative ‘but’ is required, since the clause is Nehemiah’s reply to his enemies’ machinations, which are summarized in the previous sentence. The construction in the Hebrew creates a difficulty in the translation. The words ‘O God’ are not in the original: the verb ‘strengthen’ may either be the imperative or the infinitive.

(i) The A.V. and R.V. and the majority of commentators accept the view that the verb is in the imperative, and regard the words as a prayerful soliloquy with which Nehemiah closes his description of this scene. To this rendering it is an objection (1) that the name of the Deity must be supplied in order to make the words intelligible; (2) that even for an interjectional prayer the language is abrupt; (3) that the substance as well as the form of the sentence differs from the interjectional prayers in Nehemiah 5:19, Nehemiah 6:14.

(ii) If the verb be in the infin., the words express Nehemiah’s resolution in the face of his difficulties, ‘I will strengthen my hands.’ There would be no difficulty presented by such a construction if either the infinitive had been preceded by a verb in a finite form, or the subject of the verb had been expressed. But as both those conditions are lacking, the infinitival construction is certainly extremely harsh and unusual. It is strange to find ‘a note added, in the form of a soliloquy, to a description of events which had happened at least 12 years before the final publication of these memoirs.’

Somewhat in favour of the latter view is the evidence of the Gr. and Latin versions, which give, ‘And I strengthened my hands.’ LXX. καὶ νῦν ἐκραταίωσα τὰς χεῖράς μου. Vulg. ‘quam ob causam magis confortavi manus meas,’ and ‘But I will strengthen my hands,’ Syr. and Arab. It may be contended that the Versions have merely aimed at giving the most probable sense, without facing the grammatical difficulty; and that, if so, their evidence is of little value. On the other hand their unanimity possibly indicates a difference of text at any early time. So far as they only record a traditional interpretation, they are opposed to the view that the words are a prayer. On the whole the rendering of the R.V. margin seems preferable. It is a harsh construction, but with a simple meaning. The explanation of a prayer escapes the difficulty of construction, but creates a greater objection in the ellipse of the Sacred Name. Among the older explanations of this clause there is the very strange one which suggested that Nehemiah’s words are addressed to Sanballat, whom he invites to strengthen his hands instead of weakening them in the task of completing the walls. For the phrase ‘strengthen my hands,’ cf. 1 Samuel 23:16, ‘strengthened his hands in God.’Verse 9. - They all made us afraid. Rather, "sought to affright us." Their attempts did not succeed. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. "O God" is not in the original; whence some critics do not see in the words used a prayer, but only a statement - "But I now strengthened my hands" (so the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions). This meaning, however, cannot be obtained from the present text. Nehemiah sent messengers to them, saying: "I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down thither. Why should the work cease whilst I leave it and come down to you?" That is, he let them know that he could not undertake the journey, because his presence in Jerusalem was necessary for the uninterrupted prosecution of the work of building.
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